We love growing our own, and so do our kids—from purple carrots to the perfect green bean! By getting kids to help on the homestead from an early age, it becomes something they love, too.
As hobby farm enthusiasts, you’re no doubt on board with getting your hands dirty and doing it yourselves. But getting kids in on the process can prove to be challenging.
Here are a few tips and tricks we can start now to ensure years of help from our kids—before they fly the coop!
Kids are not born farm hands, but they learn fast and love to imitate us, especially if we’re having fun. So often it was my boys who helped me stop and savor a moment in the garden—appreciating buzzing bees, the smell of a flower or stopping to enjoy a few pea pods fresh from the vine.
Little hands can do a lot of work!
Here are a few pointers when getting kids into around-the-farm work.
- Set up the expectation that gardening and raising animals is a process that doesn’t need to be perfect. There will be mistakes, but we get to learn from those mistakes and do better each season.
- Develop a plan for what you want kids to help with ahead of time in order to keep things moving. Depending on the age, kids can usually help for one to three tasks in the garden before they are done. At first this may take more time than doing it yourself, but eventually they will be a huge help.
- Find jobs that have an obvious finish line, so they can feel a sense of accomplishment.
Common Jobs for Young Children
Not sure where to start? Here are some common tasks that are right for kids as young as 5 years old.
- Fill up a bucket. Task your young helper(s) with filling a bucket with dandelion heads (for jelly), pinecones (for fire starters) or weeds.
- Plant seeds. This is a favorite for kids. Prep the area ahead of time or let them loosen the soil. Show your kid helpers how deep to dig—kids love measuring with their own body (knuckles are a favorite). Then give the children only the number of seeds you want planted and show them how big of a space they should plant in. You can also make holes first and have them fill holes with seeds, which works great with beans and corn.
- Watering. Give each of your kid helpers their own watering can. A sprinkle spout can do wonders both for keeping them busy and helping your garden grow. I avoid hoses in the garden for kids under 10.
- Weeding. Show them one or two easy-to-identify weeds to pull at a time (creeping Charlie, grass, etc.), and give them a time limit. Define a space or a bucket to fill so they know what’s expected.
- Harvesting. This is everyone’s favorite part! Set a specific number of items to harvest—for example five carrots, 20 beans—to help them focus. Or let them go crazy and harvest the whole bed! Also, taking beans out of pods and corn off the cob are favorite activities for littles.
- Collecting eggs. Tasking your youngest kids with egg collection duties help them understand the importance of gently handling our food and leads to a deeper respect for food we eat.
- Preparing the harvest. Having them rip lettuce leaves, scrub carrots and potatoes, or lay out herbs to dry connects them with their food and gives them a sense of pride that rivals our own joy in growing food for our families!
As they get to around 10 years old, they can start to mow, till, and really help clean the coop and weed for longer times. And remember that, just like for us, making it fun makes a difference! So grab some lemonade and get some music, a podcast or an audio book going, and get your kids out into the homestead with you.
And it’s OK if kids get distracted by butterflies, worms etc. They’re outside with you and, eventually, they’ll get the job done. Spending time with your kids on the homestead you love is really what it’s all about!